What Are Poker Players Listening To?


Like hoodies and sunglasses, headphones are an important part of some poker players’ kitbag. The reason? To gain focus and keep composure, essential when making important decisions at the felt. What better way to prevent them from titling, than chilling to a nice, gentle and simple blissful ballad?

Remember too, that in the early stages of a long tourney, before the stragglers have been flushed, the game can become tedious, slow and even boring, meaning a player’s attention might begin to wander, causing them to lose focus and drop money and chips. Keeping your own personal thumping house music soundtrack can help with that. Or, simply, provide a player with a (possibly false) relaxed look that masks their inner expressions.

Why wouldn’t you listen to music?

Counter arguments have been made that grinders who do choose to listen to music at the poker table generally slow the game down by missing out on important information such as the value of a bet or raise. Those on the opposition side, are also quick to point out that music can be a distraction, affecting a players’ ability to read the opponent’s tells.

The success stories

Despite the protests, a lot of poker pros compete with their headphones on. For instance, Asian pro Celina Lin, who has earned herself the title of China’s queen of poker, has admitted to listening to ‘Started from the bottom’ by Canadian rapper Drake. Nothing wrong with that, of course.

Elsewhere, one of the most successful guys ever to play on the circuit, Phil Ivey, who has 10 WSOP bracelets and a live career cash total of almost $24m, is famous for wearing headphones. He is far from alone. Antonio Esfandiari and Phil Hellmuth have both been spotted piping in the tunes at the felt.

The different genres of music

Phil Hellmuth, known as The Poker Brat, is famed for his rock and roll and often confrontational style, and constructs his play list suitably, listening to rock music from the ’80s and ’90s.Even the legendary ‘KidPoker’ himself, Daniel Negreanu, has opened up about listening to massage music, compiled from sounds of the ocean and chirping birds, in order to keep him focused and relaxed.

In May, Dutch grinder Lex Veldhuis shared his Spotify playlist which featured lots of romantic, ambient house and techno music tracks, ranging from Justin Jay’s, ‘You Give Me Butterflies’ to ‘When The Birds Go In The Wrong Way’ by Worakls. All of the above-mentioned names have won millions of dollars playing the game they love, listening to their favourite tunes.

Recreational celebrity players too, stars such as Gerard Piqué and Aaron Paul, who participated for the L.A. Sunset in 2016’sGlobal Poker League, have taken to wearing head gear too.

Is music beneficial?

Can music improve your results at the poker table? That’s a resounding yes. There’s nothing stopping you trying this for yourself while playing poker online. However, there have been attempts to understand how the game would be minus the music, an event dubbed the Social Experiment at the Commerce Casino in Los Angeles earlier this year, banned mobile phones, sunglasses and headphones in a bid to encourage chat and interaction at the felt.

Happily, this was a one off and there is nothing preventing you from using headphones when you decide to play poker with your favourite music. Simply, draw up a playlist based on what you want it to do for you, be it keeping calm, getting the juices flowing or overcoming early stage slow plays, and see if this works for you.